Author Topic: Back to the Peninsular Wars, events in Portugal and beyond  (Read 140914 times)

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Offline MWDabbs

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Nice collection, Campers... might just have to make a Napoleonic Wars scenario, too... will get this first one done first...  but that would really be an undertaking, too.
We cannot afford governments that cannot afford to take care of our veterans.

Offline Lt. Campers

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Nice collection, Campers... might just have to make a Napoleonic Wars scenario, too... will get this first one done first...  but that would really be an undertaking, too.

Thanks Mark,  A Napoleonic Wars scenario would be interesting.
The first in the field and the last from the Taverna.

Offline Rifleman Plunket

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Sir, Your reports get in from thr front much faster than mine !!!!
See my Bussaco pages..............  Tom

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Reliving the Peninsular War.

Offline Lt. Campers

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The British retire to the Lines of Torres Vedras

As you know the day after the Battle of Bussaco, Wellington and the Anglo-Portuguese
army were forced to retreat to Coimbra, after Massena turned his flank at Bussaco.
With the french securing the road behind him, Wellington knew he had perhaps only a
couple of days head start over Massena.
His objective now being to make all speed to his prepared positions on the Lines
of Torres Vedras, following the evacuation of Coimbra.
At Coimbra he was dismayed to see that most of its citizens are hesitant in heeding
the advice of the Portuguese regency & army, to evacuate the town as soon as
possible.
So on the night of the 29th September, Wellington declared that the french were
close by and if its citizens did not evacuate the town immediately. He would order
his troops to force them out of their homes at bayonet point. This had the desired
effect and over the next few days, the entire population joined many other refugees
on the road to Torres Vedras.

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The Sack of Coimbra & the road to Torres Vedras

Although harsh, it was indeed fortunate that its citizens were forced to depart, taking
whatever belongings they can, to seek refuge behind the lines.
For Massena's men upon entering Coimbra, wasted no time in thoroughly sacking
the town following their month long march. It is also said that Junot's men left no
building untouched during the rampage, destroying several weeks worth of food
into the bargain.
The british were not much better during the retreat, judging by the number of
soldiers that were tried and executed for looting.
The Sack of Coimbra delayed Massena's pursuit of Wellington, significantly meaning
he could not press the british as closely as he'd like. But this was of no concern for
Massena, as his generals continue sending back reports of a British army in full retreat.
Although his vanguard continue to fight minor skirmishes with Wellington's rear,
his adversary continues to pass up many opportunities to delay him.
The only logical conclusion he can reach is that the British are racing to reach the
comparative safety of their ships and embarkation in Lisbon.
Its only on the 5th October, that the french begin to learn something different from
the british stragglers, cut off duing the retreat. That the army is retreating not to
their ships but to 'the lines'.
It would take the French another week to learn the significance of 'the lines'.

Portuguese partisans take up position ready to defy the french
pursuing the british rearguard




Portuguese partisans flee as the french deploy cavalry to clear the
road ahead





Coimbra recaptured by Portuguese Militia & Partisans

As Marshal Massena's troops bore down on the Lines of Torres Vedras. A small
french garrison left behind to hold Coimbra, comes under attack by a bold and
daring British officer by the name of Nicholas Trant.

The audacious british officer

Trant had been assigned to the Portuguese in 1809, who seeing his flair with
irregular troops, promoted him to the rank of Brigadier General in the Portuguese
army and sent him to command a corps of Portuguese militia, raised amoungst
the students of the University of Coimbra.
When Soult captured Oporto in 1809, many new recruits flocked to his
colours.
Holding Coimbra until May 1809, Trants little army joined Wellignton's march
on Oporto and helped in its final liberation from the french, subsequently
becoming the new governor of Oporto.
Wellington was quite impressed with this resourceful british officer, who had
done wonders with the enthusiastic but turbulent Portuguese irregulars.
Therefore he had no hesitation in recommending that Trant's temporary
command should become permanent.
Using Coimbra as a base of operation's Trant's irregulars then proceeded to
harass the french invasion of Portugal in the autumn of 1810.

During the retreat to the lines of Torres Vedras, Trant led a series of audacious
raids on the french columns marching from Almeida. On the 20th
September, with only a squadron of cavalry and 2000 militia he surprised the
french artillery train as it made its way down a narrow defile of a hilly road.
As the front of the artillery column came under fire and attack, alarm
spread to the rest of the column following behind.
In all the confusion 100 prisoners were taken by Trant during the raid which
delayed Massena's advance for 2 days.
Again on the day before the Battle of Bussaco, Trants partisans struck again
this time on the french army baggage train who the french guards
could barely beat off, if it wasn't for the timely arrival of reinforcements.

Coimbra recaptured

So it was that on the 7th October that Trant with 4000 militia descended
on Coimbra and recaptured the town, meeting little or no resistance from the
french.
Here Massena had left the sick and the wounded with only a small french
guard.
It was therefore with great joy that Napier reported in his journals that Trant.
had pulled off one of the most daring raids by partisans in Portugal.
Carrying off 5000 prisoners to be escorted to Oporto for transport into
captivity in England.

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« Last Edit: 23:41 20-Mar-2014 by Lt. Campers »
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September 1810 - The Great Escape

As expats know, the Peninsular Wars have been going on for some years now and
with every battle that occurs, theirs the constant problem of new prisoners to attend
to, as soldiers from both sides are taken captive during the war.

As mentioned earlier in my ramblings through the Napoleonic Wars, the prisoners
are split into two catagories, any officers taken prisoner can elect to take their
parole. Which means taking an oath, not to escape or take up arms against their
captors, in exchange for certain privelidges and looser restraints on their
freedom.
These french officers might lead a 'charmed life' in England being confined to
one of the many 'parole towns' where they continue to draw a salary while in
confinement by the Parole Officer.
The two goldern rules being, not to escape and never to step outside the town
boundary, marked by parole stones. So long as they abided by these rules they
were generally treated as guests and allowed to mix and socialise with
the local community as much as they like.

Whereas the ordinary rank and file were given no such option and were therefore
confined under guard, until such time as they could be transported by sea to
England.
Their they took their chances as to where they will be held for the duration of
the war. If they were lucky they would be sent to one of the many castles
or prisons, like Dartmoor. where in addition to their meagure allowances. They
could also earn some extra cash making trinkets, carvings or model ships
to sell at the local market.
If they were unlucky, they could be confined aboard one of the many derelict
hulks ( prison ships ) that are common place in many of the naval ports
in England. Here food and hygiene are bad and downright deplorable as the
situation gets worst with more arrivals leading to overcrowding.

French prisoners overpower their escort

The arrival of more French prisoners from the Peninsular was also leading
to overcrowding in Dartmoor which puts presure on the government to
move a number or French prisoners from Dartmoor to the new, purpose
built Prisoner of War depot at Norman Cross.
So it was that on an unusually cold and crisp early autumn morning, we
find a column of French soldiers being moved under guard on their
long trek to Cambridgeshire. As they march on from Oxford, they approach
the small village of Stanton St John when suddenly a shot is fired,
a soldier collapses on the ground and the french rush forward with
knives, overpowering the escort and siezing their weapons.
Following the escort the British had also attached a munitions wagon,
enroute to the Royal Military Ordnance Depot at Weedon Bec.
Here again the french throw off the wagon driver and sieze  powder and
muskets, distributing the arms to many of the freed prisoners.

Fully armed they proceed to a local farm house looking for food, the
farmer and his wife have already fled leaving the french to pillage what
they want from the farm and outbuildings.

The wagonmaster has raised the alarm and word of the escape soon
reaches Oxford. Fortunately for the local magistrates, a detachment
of the 95th Rifles are quartered at the local barracks and therefore
together with another detachment of regulars, they proceed to march
with all speed to Stanton St John. To apprehend the escaped prisoners.

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Armed & dangerous, french prisoners make a stand in
Oxfordshire




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The French are finally apprehended

Suffice to say that after after evading the British for so long, the french are
finally cornered in a field where they make a heroic last stand in a firefight
before surrending to the 95th Rifles and being returned to the prison escort.
But what puzzles the authorities is what made them rebel in the first place.
Having endured so many hardships already, its a mystery as to why they
are so reluctant to move to their new prison camp at Norman Cross.
Then one of the prisoners confides to the guard that he had a premonition,
that many years hence, a scruffy and disreputable character by the
name of Baldrick would be rummaging around the prisoners artefacts and
personal effects. Although he had suffered much from the english, this
was simply too much for any frenchmen to stand.


Time Team - the dig at Norman Cross POW Depot

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The rainy weather in Portugal

Those expats returning from their holidays in Portugal, will know that the rainy weather
has bogged down military operations near Torres Vedras. With Napoleons troops coming
face to face with the Lines of Torres Vedras, this has presented a new challenge to their
general, Marshall Massena.
As Massena deliberates the obstacle before him, the rest of his army slowly catches
up with the core of the main field army along the muddy, rutted roads of northern
Portugal.

Meanwhile in Southern Spain

In contrast to Northern Portugal, the Costa del Sol has been enjoying some fine
autumn weather. With calm seas, that has prompted the British under Major-General
Lord Blayney to launch an audacious amphibious attack on the Polish garrison of
Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol.
The garrison has acquired a reputation during the Peninsular Wars of being a
rest and recuperation garrison with lazy days on the beach.
Its precisely for this reason, that the British have choosen to attack it this weekend.
« Last Edit: 16:58 16-Oct-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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The Battle of Fuengirola, October 1810

In the autumn of 1810, the British Major General Lord Blayney decided to lead an
expeditionary force from Gibraltar towards the port of Malaga and seize it by surprise.
The beaches near the Castillo de Sohail in Fuengirola seemed a perfect landing place
for his force.
The Spanish partisans informed the British about the weakness of the defenders
and the lack of reserves. They had been keeping a low profile in anticipation of
the day they can attack Napoleon's forces.
In October 1810 Blayney gathered a field force of 2/89th Regiment of Foot, a battalion
of international deserters from the French army, an artillery unit, naval gun crews and
a Spanish Toledo Regiment.
The initial British-Spanish expedition numbered some 2500 men, excluding naval
staff and crew. They boarded a small fleet consisting of two frigates, HMS Topaze
and HMS Sparrowhawk, five gunboats, several brigs, and transport sloops.


The British prepare to attack Napoleon's, Polish garrison at Fuengirola


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The Polish garrison at Fuengirola




Polish troops parade in front of the Castillo de Sohail in Fuengirola




On October 14, 1810, the British armada reached the Cala Moral Bay, about two miles
southwest from Fuengirola. The British disembarked, and were joined on the beach by
a small number of Spanish partisans.
Blayney led his force northeast along the shore while his fleet sailed parallel toward
Fuengirola. At 2:00 p.m. they all arrived in front of the castle and the British general
sent an emissary to convince the Polish commander to surrender.
Its commander, Captain Mlokosiewicz refused and so the British ships opened fire.

Newspapers in Andalusia, report on the arrival of the British expeditionary
force to Fuengirola and the summons to the Polish garrison to surrender the
Castillo de Sohail


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Napoleon's defiant Polish troops at the Castillo de Sohail in Fuengirola



The 4th Regiment of Polish infantry of the Duchy of Warsaw ( in french service )
have Fuengirola in their battle honours


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« Last Edit: 22:02 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Cannons roar on the Costa del Sol



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The landing of British & Spanish troops on the beaches of the Costa del Sol, that
was accompanied by the roar of cannon fire.
Has alarmed several holidaymakers in the Spanish resort of Fuengirola, as many were
blissfully unaware of commemorative events taking place. The landings which
occured early on saturday evening, disturbed many sunworshipers who bolted from
the beaches to seek sanctuary and alchoholic fortitude in the nearest Tapas Bars
or restuarants.
As frantic calls were made to friends and tour operators, it was noted by many who
witnessed it, that only the germans were unmoved by events and prepared to
defend their sunbeds, down to the last man.   :D

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The British landings at Fuengirola

The sight that was unfolding on the beaches of Fuengirola was indeed impossing.
As the british continued to disembark and form up into their regimental formations,
Lord Andrew Thomas Blayney surveyed the scene in front of him.
Besides the aforementioned germans on his right flank, ahead of him stood the castle
of Castillo de Sohail, resplendant on top of a hilly mound jauntily flying the French
tricolour alongside that of the Polish eagle.
The garrison had already sounded the alarm, as the men were 'stood to' following
an attack by Spanish guerillas on nearby farm buildings used by the Poles.
With the element of surprise clearly lost by the english, Blayney marches forward
to occupy the hilly mound in front of the castle.
At the same time the British commander sends an emissary to the castle demanding
its surrender. Inside the Polish garrison, numbering no more than a little over 100
men, was led by Captain Franciszek Mlokosiewicz of the 4th infantry regiment. Who
was affronted, the British would think he would surrender the castle without a fight.
Mlokosiewicz responded to the request with the defiant reply, 'Come and take it'


Lord Blayney and the naval commander accompanying the expedition,
inspect the troops on the shores of Fuengirola






The British bombard the Castillo de Sohail

The British frigates and gunboats ( now close inshore ) opened fire. The Poles
responded by returning fire with the old castle guns and succeded in sinking one
gunboat, while causing numerous casulties on the other four gunboats.
The cannonade also proved too much for the stoical germans, caught in the
crossfire they subsequently fled the field.
The gunboats were also forced to withdraw and left it to the two frigates, now
close inshore, to continue the bombardment with Blayney attempting a
frontal assualt on the castle walls but this was beaten off with heavy casulties,
a major in the 89th regiment was killed and on the Polish side, the
redoubtable Captain Mlokosiewicz was injured.
Overnight, the frigates continued a sporadic bombardment of the castle as
Blayney landed his guns to set up two artillery emplacements, near the castle.
During the night, the request for help from the Polish garrson has borne fruit,
as extra troops from the French & Polish outposts of Mijas and Alhaurin managed
to reinforce the Polish garrison.




The Poles sally forth in a surprise attack

The following morning the bombardment continued, both by land and sea as
the british succeed in destoying one of the castle towers.
Around 2:00 p.m, reinforcements arrive offshore, in the shape of HMS Rodney
accompanied by a Spanish warship with 932 men of the 82nd Regiment of Foot.
With the castle catching fire and the number of wounded increasing steadily from
the heavy bombardment, Mlokosiewicz called a council of war where all officers
present voted to continue the fight.
Therefore the bold Captain Mlokosiewicz, resolves to mount a surprise attack on the
enemy gun emplacements. So leaving the castle mostly guarded by the wounded,
he leads 130 soldiers forward ( supported by 30 dragoons ) by sallying forth from
the castle gate.
The besiegers are taken totally by surprise and despite outnumbering their
Polish adversaries almost 10 to one, the Spanish troops covering the artillery
positions retreat in disorder. The guns are subsequently overrun by the Poles
who after fighting off the Royal navy gunners, turn the cannons against the
British besiegers.

Video of todays battle for the Castillo de Sohail and the Polish
charge on the british guns


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Amoungst the 40 or so prisoners, taken by the Poles was Lord Blayney's adjutant whos
escorted back to the castle. So with the guns in Polish hands, the soldiers proceeded
to bombard the british and spanish troops, regrouping on the beach. Although their
fire was ineffective ( as the Poles had no gunners amoungst them ) it did play on the
rattled nerves of the troops, rallying round Lord Blayney and his other staff officers.

The British counterattack, turns into a shambles

Using his reserve of the 89th regiment of foot, to give a little backbone to the
allied forces reassembling on the beach. Blayney orders his men to counterattack
and recapture the guns from the Poles. The outnumbered defenders wisely
abandoned the guns but not before blowing up the gunpowder.
But the British and Spanish troops could advance no further, for ( as luck would
have it ) more Polish troops from the garrison of Alhaurin, arrived on the
scene and immediately attacked Blayney's left flank.
These fresh troops gave Mlokosiewicz time to regroup his garrison once more
before counterattacking the Allied right flank.
This near simultaneous counterattack of Polish troops, joined by 30 troopers
of the french 21st Dragoons, caught the british off balance and with his troops
wavering under the attack. Blayney is captured and taken prisoner, just as
hes pushing his men forward, to make one final effort.
With their commander lost, the allies sound the retreat, what follows next
is chaos. The Spaniards after firing a few volleys at long range. retreat to the
beach, leaving the Poles to retake the guns.
The beachead is a scene of mayhem, with british and spanish soldiers
scrambling to board the boats while once more, the Poles resume their
cannonade of the british beachead.
Only the timely arrival of the 82nd foot, recently landed from the british
squadron anchored off Fuengirola, saved the beachead from being overrun by
the Poles.
As the british 74 gun ship of the line, HMS Rodney bombarded Polish positions,
the remnants of Lord Blayney's experditionary force are returned to their
transports, from whence they will return to Gibraltar.

Aftermath

The defence of the castle in Fuengirola was one of the few times in history
( other than at Maida and Albuera ), in which Polish soldiers fought against the
British Army. It was also one of the few decisive British defeats in the
Peninsular War.
Although in his memoirs, Lord Blayney tried to downplay the importance
of the battle of Fuengirola, he himself remained in French captivity for nearly
four years, until 1814.
His surrendered sabre can still be seen today, on permanent exhibition at the
Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland.
As for the intrepid Captain Mlokosiewicz, he was showered with praise by
the commander of Franco-Polish forces ( in Malaga ) General Sebastiani.
Who visited the scene of the battle on the 16th October and showered the
Poles with praise. Consequently Mlokosiewicz was awarded the Legion d'Honneur
by the french.

Polish troops see off the last of the British boats




Naturally I'm sorry to be the bearer of such ill tidings of British efforts on
the Costa del Sol. But I'm sure many expats will take comfort from the fact
that at least we didn't lose against the french.   ;)
Besides as far as the french campaign in Portugal's concerned, Massena's
hit a brick wall thanks to the Lines of Torres Vedras.

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« Last Edit: 22:04 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Aragon, Spain 1810

Aragon is situated in the northern most region of Spain with the north bordered by the
Pyrennes of France and the south featuring an arid landscape of dry plains with an empty
hilly landscape. Its semi-arid features accounts for its sparsely populated population
which are concentrated in the major cities of the region like Saragossa.
Napoleon's occupation of Spain was no more keenly felt than in Aragon and in particular
Saragossa. Where following the 'Dos de Mayo' uprising against french rule in Madrid,
the citizens of Saragossa encouraged the Spanish authorities to revolt against the
french.
United under the command of Joseph Palafox, the self appointed Governor General
of Aragon, who encouraged the people to resist in two bloody sieges against the french.
Where although hopelessly outnumbered and beyond relief, the sieges of Saragossa
became an inspiration for the spanish people to continue the resistance.

This resistance was no more keenly felt than amoungst the bands of guerillas, partisans
and irregulars who continue to fight by ambushing the french and attacking their
supply wagons. But this fight was becoming attrocious with attrocities and reprisals
commited by both sides, highlighting the horrors of the Peninsular war.

For the French the guerillas and partisans are becoming a nightmare which necessitates
even the smallest expeditions requiring a big escort. For Suchet in particular had hoped
that by wiping out the most notourious of guerilla bands, last year. He would have
restored some semblance of order in Aragon.
Now he finds a new guerilla leader is stirring up trouble in the region and this time hes
attracting many former soldiers from the Spanish army as well as deserters from the
british army.

Therefore he mounts another military operation against the guerilla stronghold using
the best professional soldiers hes has from 3rd Corps.

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General Suchet leads his men against the Crimean partisans of Aragon








The aftermath of a Spanish guerilla attack on a french patrol




A french officer is captured and taken away




Another frenchmen is bound and gagged before being taken for questioning




The Spanish partisans in their Lair




Suchet's men encounter the Partisans




The Partisan's comprising some former Spanish soldiers open fire




French cavalry arrive on the scene and the order is given to charge




French cavalry with dragoons charge the Partisans, scattering them in the melee




The Partisans are overrun after making a last stand against the french




General Suchet orders a final salute for the fallen french soldiers




Suchet and the other french offers salute each other after a successful campaign




The French camp high in the foothills







French soldiers survey the surrounding area for partisans




Footnote - Fans of the Sharpe TV film series, will know only too well that the
first three episodes of Sharpe were filmed in the Crimea 16 years ago.
Therefore I'm sure many of them will pleased to know that the Spanish partisans
are still resisting the french, after all these years.


The Napoleonic Wars on the Russian Front

Its no doubt apt that the russians & ukrainians were re-enacting their own version
of the Peninsular Wars in the Crimea. As it not only dovetails nicely with the
200th anniversary events, taking place on the Spanish Peninsular but it also
serves as an introduction to the Russian re-enactment movement in the former
Soviet Union.
As compared with western re-enactment societies, the russian & ukrainian
re-enactment scene is fairly recent. Only gaining ground following Gorbachev's
reforms of the Soviet Union, epitomised by Glasnost & Perestroika in the late 1980's.
Like the Peninsular Wars, the Russian's are nearing their 200rd anniversary events
in their struggle against Napoleon Bonaparte. With Napoleon's invasion of Russia
in 1812, or as the russians would call it 'the Patriotic War of 1812'

So their big battle re-enactment is the Battle of Borodino, held every year north-west
of Moscow. Another annual event is the Battle of Maloyaroslavets, just south-west of
Moscow which was another big battle during the Patriotic War of 1812.
This time recreating a battle following Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in
October 1812. Where the french army endeavoured to fall back across a more fertile
and unravaged region of Russia, towards Ukraine rather than via their line of advance
through Smolensk.
Here the Russian imperial army under Kutusov fought a fierce battle which although
indecisive in outcome, forced Napoleon to abandon the southern route in favour of
his previous route, that would cause so much privation to the army.

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Anyway the Russian's re-enacted the Battle of Maloyaroslavets, last weekend on
a cold and frosty autumn day. Its nothing to do with the events of 1810 but the
photo's are so good that it serves as a good example of a Napoleonic re-enactment
in Russia.

Photos from the re-enactment are best seen using broadband

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« Last Edit: 22:04 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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The French encounter the Torres Vedras Lines

The first French troops to discover the Lines of Torres Vedras were Montbrun's cavalry.
They reached Sobral on 11th October and soon realised that the hills south of the village
were lined with fortifications. The following day Montbrun's men moved east, to make
room for Junot's 8th Corps.
That afternoon Junot drove the British outposts out of the village ( called the first combat
of Sobral, 12th October 1810 ), in what would turn out to be the only French success
against the Lines.

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Combat of Sobral, October 1810

The village of Sobral was just outside the Torres Vedras lines but the british had
established a picket line composed of men from Sir Brent Spencers division.
The arrival of Montbrun's cavalry before Sobral clearly unnerved Spencers Light division
and under cover of darkness, the troops were withdrawn but overnight Spencers men
were ordered to return to their posts in Sobral.
On the 12th October, Junot's infantry battalion's started to arrive. With infantry from
Clausel's division now in place, the french decided to attack Sobral and push Spencer's
Light division out of the village.
At least six battalion's of Clausel's division moved into Sobral and forced the pickets from
Erskines and Lowes brigades to retreat 300 yards, crossing a ravine that separated
Sobral from the lower slopes of Monte Agraca. There the British reformed, establishing
a fallback position that halted the french attack.


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Two days later Junot ordered a second attack on the Light division, south of Sobral.
Against their new picket line, that was now strengthened by a barricade,
blocking the high road across the Lines of Torres Vedras.
To soften up the british position, Junot bombarded their lines first before
sending in the compagnies d'elite of the 19th French Infantry regiment. To drive in
the british outposts, now manned by the 71st Foot regiment.
The scale of the french attack forced the british to abandon their advance line but
as they regrouped behind the colours.
The rest of the 71st gathered together and launched a counter attack that completely
threw the french off balance, forcing them to retire to Sobral where they reformed
behind Menard's brigade.
The british pursued as far as the village before falling back on their picket lines.
Junot declined to attack again and decided to strengthen his position around
Sobral instead. Although the battle rates as being no more than a skirmish, with the
british suffering 67 casualties against the 120 suffered by the french.
It did catch the attention of Marshal Massena, who caught his first sight of the
Torres Vedras Lines and the problems it was causing the french, as he
witnessed the failure of the french attack.

A wounded french soldier receives treatment in Sobral




Massena's men set up camp outside the Torres Vedras Lines

Rightly or wrongly Massena decided not to risk his army in an all out attack of the
Torres Vedras lines and so instead 'his grand army' settled down in their new
positions outside the Torres Vedras Lines.
Although scouts and patrols were dispatched to reconnoitre the Lines, their were no
discernable weak spots that Massena could exploit, to turn Wellington's flank
( like he did at Bussaco )
This time he would have to wait and see if the British would come out and fight
where he stood.

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This would prove to be a long wait with neither side wanting to risk all in a
final battle. For Wellington had planned, all along to wear down the french resolve.
By staying behind the lines, until starvation and lack of fodder 'due to the british
scorched earth policy' forced Massena to withdraw from Portugal.



« Last Edit: 09:20 22-Aug-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Offline Rifleman Plunket

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    • Peninsular War Diary
A detachment of rockets, reached Lisbon in November, 1810.
1st Lt W. F. Lindsay, R.A., two NCO?s and 12 Gunners, landed from the Charlotte, a transport, in charge of an ?Equipment of Congreve?s Rockets?.  They were attached to Fane?s Brigade of Portuguese Cavalry which was patrolling the other side of the river Tagus.

Santarem on the north bank of the Tagus, occupied by the French, was "rocketed" by Lindsay?s detachment on 13th November.  The rockets were fired from the South bank, across the river, presumably to burn the yards where the French are constructing boats and pontoons. 

It was reported ?he only fired a few of the carcass rockets, and without much apparent effect, except putting to the route a large convoy of baggage, marching towards Golegam, amongst whom a rocket fell."

The bombardment had little effect and the Rocket Troops seem to have returned home, Wellington did not ever seem to be impressed with rockets.
Reliving the Peninsular War.

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Walking the Torres Vedras Lines - a special bicentennial edition of
Itinerante magazine


The travelling magazine for ramblers and walkers in Portugal, Itinerant has launched a
special bicentennial edition to their quarterly magazine.
Published in English & Portuguese, Itinerant also has a presence on the internet.
The fouth quarter edition, released this week features 96 pages of text and
photos of walks along the Torres Vedras Lines, highlighting places of outstanding
natural beauty or historical importance and all for 4.96 Euros.

Editorial Introduction

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A year later we return to the theme of the Napoleonic wars, this time to devote
ourselves exclusively to the Lines of Torres Vedras. Despite its relative recent
history, this effective defence barrier is relatively unknown to the Portuguese.
It was however crucial to the defence of Lisbon during the third french invasion
of Portugal. For many historians, Massena's retreat from the Lines of
Torres Vedras was the first sign of a decline in Napoleon's fortunes and although
not as dramatic as Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, it nevertheless marked a
turning point in french fortunes on the Spanish Peninsular.
For taking advantage of natural obstacles in the landscape, Wellington's engineers
had erected a four tier defensive line with a total length of 90 kms incorporating
152 fortifications, connector roads and visual telegraph communication system.
A formidable feat for its time, with only the first line fully complete when
Massena's troops encountered the Lines.

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« Last Edit: 16:03 14-Nov-2010 by Lt. Campers »
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Massena falls back on Santerum

By the middle of November it was clear that the French could no longer
stay close to the Lines and therefore Massena decided to pull back to
Santarem where he expected to see out the winter while
awaiting reinforcements.
So on the night of 14 November, protected by a dense fog, the
French pulled out of their lines, and began to march north.
The fog lingured on until late morning and even then it took some time
for the British to discover the French had gone ( partly because one of
the French brigades had posted dummy sentries in their lines, using
straw men wearing old shakos).
This gave the French a head start, and Wellington's pursuing
troops did not catch up with them until 17 November.

Massena accompanied by his mistress and aides inspect their new quarters




By 18 November the French were in their new camps around Santerum
where it was clear the french held a stronger defensive position.
Here Massenas foraggers had more joy finding food and other supplies
to hold out during the winter.
Also General Elbe was attempting to construct a pontoon bridge with
which to attack Wellingtons isolated positions on the south bank of the Tagus.


Santerum on the Tagus comes under rocket attack

Early in November 1810, a detachment of Congreve Rockets arrived in Lisbon
aboard the the British warship, HMS Charlotte. The Royal artillery rocket
troop was commanded by Lieut Lindsey who had two NCO's and 12
gunners under his command.
They were soon attached to Fane's Portuguese cavalry which was charged with
patrolling the south bank of the River Tagus, against any incursion by the
French.

On the 8th November disturbing news was arriving at Fane's headquarters in
Almeirim, that the french were gathering a flotilla of boats and other materials
( eg planks, rope and poles ) at Santerum in order to cross the Tagus.
These reports acquired from peasents fleeing the french, were later confirmed
by Portuguese spies. That the french were indeed gathering river boats, enough
to construct a pontoon bridge across the Tagus.

Fane after assesing the situation, thought it a golden opportunity for Lindsey's
Rocket troop to prove their worth. as the sails, planks, rigging and other
combustable material gathered by the french would be the perfect target
for Congreve Rockets.
Therefore as dawn broke on the morning of the 16th November,
Lieut Lindsey fired up to forty-two Congreve rockets at the quayside of
Santerum.
The effect of the rocket attack was hard to judge, as four or five of them fell
into the town another four disintegrated as they flew out of the rocket frames,
leaving only 32 to fly about all four corners of the Quayside, causing
much alarm but ( as far as we can tell ) very little damage.

Wellington, upon reading Fane's report of the rocket attack on Santerum
was clearly unimpressed by Congreve's rockets

Death to the French by CS Forrester




The british attack on Santerum has also been portrayed in one of CS Forresters,
Napoleonic adventure books about Rifleman Dodd of the 95th Rifles during
the Peninsular Wars.

Rifleman Dodd and his struggle against the French behind enemy lines

The novel relates to the adventures of a British soldier cut off from his regiment
and forced to survive for several months behind enemy lines.
During the British retreat from Coimbra, Dodd becomes separated from his regiment and
is cut off from Wellington's troops, with the entire French army between him and the lines
at Torres Vedras. In an attempt to get around the French, he heads for the Tagus River,
hoping to follow it to Lisbon.
However, the French are there ahead of him and he has no option but to live off the land
and try to survive. He joins a group of Portuguese guerrillas and spends two months with
them, harassing the encamped French army, killing sentries and laying ambushes for
scouting parties and supply animals.

Rifleman Dodd and the British rocket attack on Santerum

After two months of guerrilla fighting, Dodd hears artillery fire from about ten miles away.
He can tell by the sound that it is neither a battle nor a siege. He knows that anyone
exchanging artillery fire with the French could only be an ally, so taking his friend, Bernardino
and sets out to see whats happening. Along the way they meet another Portuguese guerrilla,
whose name they never learn, who leads them to the site of the firing. There he sees British
soldiers on the other side of the Tagus firing rockets at the town of Santarum, and the
French returning cannon-fire to stop them.
Dodd deduces that there must be something in the town that the British want to set on fire;
furthermore it must be something near the river. From this he can guess what the target
must be: the French are trying to construct a pontoon bridge across the Tagus, and the
British are firing the rockets to try to burn the pontoon boats, rope, timber and paint that
are warehoused by the river.

Unable to dislodge the British rocketeers from their entrenchments on the far side of the river,
the French gather up all the bridge-building supplies and move them further up river, to a
position where the British can neither see them or fire on them. Dodd determines to destroy
the bridging materiel himself.
He and Bernardino along with the unnamed guerrilla, return to their band's headquarters, only
to find that while they were gone the French had discovered and destroyed the whole band,
hanging the men on trees and taking away the women and food.

The three have nothing to eat, so the unnamed guerrilla visits the French encampment that
night, kills a sentry and steals a pack mule. They slaughter the mule and smoke the meat,
giving them enough food in their packs for several weeks. Then they set out to find the new
bridge-building headquarters. Before they find it they are surprised by a French patrol; they
run for cover, but Dodd's two friends fall and are captured. From the safety of the rocks
Dodd looks back to see his friends hanged. He resolutely goes on alone, and finds the
French encampment.
He patiently hides in the rocks watching the business of the camp for several days. Finally
he goes in by night, kills two sentries, and spreads highly flammable grease and oil (kept in
cauldrons by the French for tarring rope, greasing cordage, and waterproofing their boats)
over the pontoons and timber and rope, and sets it all on fire. From his hideout in the rocks
he sees the whole encampment burn, and is pleased with his success; he never learns that
orders had arrived only that day for the French to burn the encampment themselves, since
Massena had ordered a retreat.

Dodd avoids the retreating French army and happily rejoins his regiment, unacknowledged,
unthanked and unconcerned about the months spent behind enemy lines.

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Rifleman Dodd in Sharpes Escape

In Sharpe's Escape one of Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels (which were
partly inspired by Death to the French) a Rifleman named Dodd is separated from Sharpe's
company during a skirmish in 1810. Cornwell acknowledged on his website that the
character was based on the same individual depicted by CS Forrester.

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Note - the above is a follow up to Rifleman Plunket's great report, as I've included
the background to the British attack on Santerum. The report to Wellington also
mentioned that the attack occured on the morning of the 16th November ?
« Last Edit: 22:07 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Conclusion of the Hungarian Hussar Patrol

For those of you who were following the Hungarian Hussar patrol on their epic
journey across Europe from Lisbon to Budapest. Heres the Hungarian tv interview
of the hussars following their return to Hungary. Where they attended a
military ceremony.

Final dispatch from Lieut Col Adam Barnabas, CO of the Hussar Patrol

I'm happy to report that the Hungarian Hussar Patrol riding across 5
countries on Portuguese horses has accomplished its mission. The patrol crossed
the Hungarian border on 18 Sept and the closing ceremony of The Multinational
Hussar Patrol event took place in Budapest Castle on 15th October. Exploiting
this opportunity I would like to express our deep thanks to you for your unforgotten
supportive approach. I wish you all the best and please give my regards to all
members of the NATO JALLC community.

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« Last Edit: 22:08 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Yet another Fort opens on the Lines of Torres Vedras

With winter drawing in the french under Massena have decided to establish their
headquarters at the town of Santerum overlooking the Lines of Torres Vedras,
on the north bank of the Tagus.
Wellington's content to see them settle down beyond the lines, as his engineers
continue to toil away on any remaining work to be done on the first line of defence
while making preperations for work on the fall back, second line of defence works
behind Torres Vedras.
Only three weeks ago the Portuguese completed the restoration of redoubt
number 38 in the town of Forte de Casa, further strengthing the lines against
the french. This was opened with great ceremony on the 4th November where
the President, as well as other visiting dignatories congratulated the people
and council of Vila Franca de Xira; for all their hard work in restoring the
redoubt to visitors and acting as a further deterrent to Napoleon's ambitions
in Portugal.

Troops encamped by a redoubt on the Lines of Torres Vedras, ready
to face the french





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Reports of french troops looting towns and villages

As Massena's troops settle down before the lines of Torres Vedras their have
been numourous reports of looting and foraging of french dragoons and
hussars in search of grain, wheat, wine, fruit, straw and hay.
The presence of such a large army of 60,000 men including 15,000
cavalry under Massena, is proving a great burden for the Portuguese towns
and villages through which the french army had marched through
and around which the many troops had established their camps and
barracks.
Napoleon's troops have posted dire warnings to any inhabitants who
might try to resist the invaders.

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« Last Edit: 22:08 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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Re: Back to the Peninsular Wars, Portugal defies Napoleon
« Reply #134 on: 15:19 14-Dec-2010 »
Portugal defies Napoleon

Portugal has minted a limited edition of commemorative coins to
mark the 200th anniversary of the Lines of Torres Vedras.


Bicentennial commemorative 2.5 Euro coin




Combat at Sobral - October 1810

Also just released a couple of weeks ago is the Video of the Combat
of Sobral where Massenas troops, led by Junot attack the Lines of
Torres Vedras at Sobral.

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« Last Edit: 22:09 28-Oct-2012 by Lt. Campers »
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